For about 150 years now, ballplayers, wood carvers and inventors have been coming up with ideas to improve a hitter's chances in the batter's box. One of the more unusual attempts came just over a century ago when an inventor unveiled the "banana bat".
Emile Kinst (sometimes referred to as Emil Kindt) was a Chicago inventor who tried to get big league clubs interested in a new design aimed at allowing the hitter to dictate where a struck ball might go.
One of those bats is about to hit the auction block. Collector and baseball historian Dave Stalker obtained the bat from the caretaker of the daughter-in-law of its original recipient, a turn of the century player named Billy Sullivan. It was recently consigned it to Robert Edward Auctions and will be sold next spring in the company's annual catalog auction. The opening bid will be $1,000.
" I've never seen or even heard of another," said REA President Rob Lifson. "What strikes everyone is the workmanship, shape, and quality of the bat. It's like Salvadore Dali designed it, and it really looks and feels like a work of art. But at the same time you can't help but think about if and how the shape will help the batter. Will it help him hit the ball where he wants? Will it send every hit to left field? Is this bat even legal to use?"
The short answer to that was apparently 'no'. An article in a Chicago newspaper indicated that Kinst had planned to create 400 of the bats in hopes of getting them into game action, but it's believed the Major League Rules Committee put a stop to it.
Sullivan, a light-hitting catcher, died in 1965 at age 95. There is a photo of an elderly Sullivan showing off the bat while being honored in his hometown of Fort Atkinson, WI. The bat was handed down to Billy Sullivan Jr., who also played in the majors and then to a family friend of Sullivan Jr.''s widow.
A curiosity even for the most ardent fan of the deadball era, it even comes with its own slipcover and copies of the patent papers which were filed in 1906.
"What kind of bat has a special case like a pool cue?" Lifson said. "It's like a bat from an alternate universe."
Stalker wrote an article for Seamheads.com, in which he revealed a little more about the bizarre bat that was left to legend.